At the dawn of the Internet’s becoming mainstream, there was the Hybrid Page. Born from the minds of Honda engine swap enthusiasts Adrian Teo and Joe Rogers, the duo’s mid-1990s online discussion forum was arguably the world’s first community-driven hub for all things Honda performance. Rogers and Teo familiarized themselves with the Honda engine transplant when the process was perceived as more of a necessity and less of a hobby. Through an extensive discovery period filled with trial and error and information gathering, the two transformed what was once a simple web page filled with a handful of engine swap tips to the industry’s most extensive repository of Honda-based information. A ghost town of a website today, and after a half-dozen iterations, the Hybrid Page lives on and serves as a reminder of how the Internet once was.
HT: How did you first become interested in Hondas?
JR: I was going to UCLA. There were some of the old-school crews that had their cars there who kinda got me interested in it. I was living in San Gabriel [California] so, of course, the scene was pretty big out there. I can’t remember exactly when I started doing what, but I began finding out about all the different motor swaps. Some shops were doing them, but they were totally on the down-low. They weren’t advertising them yet, they weren’t telling people they could do them. It was for street racers and stuff. I’d go to places like JG [Engine Dynamics] and try to snoop around and ask questions, but they’d treat me like a nobody because I didn’t have cash and wasn’t part of any of the crews. But they’d answer some of my questions. I started collecting the information and putting it on my school website. I had my own little web page—a terrible web page. It had animated GIFs and “Hybrids are the bomb!” on it. It was the worst that you could imagine a web page being. That was around 1996, 1997. I graduated and convinced my wife to use some of our wedding money to do a ZC swap into my Civic. Gil [Garcia] did that swap over at Place Racing.
HT: What about you, Adrian?
AT: I used to drive a ZC Civic, which came that way from the factory back in Singapore where I’m from. I loved that thing. It was riced-out, it had MOMO Ferrari Engineering wheels that weighed like two-million tons [laughs]. Those were horrible, horrible wheels. When I came to this country and got my Civic, I drove up to the Grand Canyon and it wouldn’t make it past 35 mph. In some stretches, trucks were passing me and I was like, “OK, that’s it, I need a new engine for this thing.” I did some research and found that the Integra engines fit, and Joe’s site came right up. I was in college at ASU [Arizona State University] back then, living in an apartment, so I brought the car to Belaray [in Orange, California]. They did the swap for me because I didn’t have the room. From that point on I was like, “This is awesome!” I had a lot of fun with it and started doing my own work. I used to road race in Singapore, so I took the car road racing here and started writing about it, trying to figure out more about swaps because, apparently, Belaray made a lot of mistakes. I had to redo a bunch of stuff. That gave me the in-depth knowledge on how to do all this stuff and find out what fits and what doesn’t fit.
JR: That’s actually where we saw eye-to-eye. That’s the kind of information Adrian and I were both collecting independently. We later had a section [on the site] that was called “What Fits What.” We didn’t want people to have to go through the same mistakes that we’d seen other people go through. Some of the shops cut wire harnesses and redid everything when stuff actually plugged in.
AT: An example: after my swap the [secondary] butterflies weren’t hooked up. That sucked out a whole bunch of power. There was a bunch of other stuff…odds and ends that I had to sort out. I don’t recall all of it, but there was a ton of wiring work.
HT: What was the online landscape like before the Hybrid Page.
AT: There was the Honda Performance List [honda-perf.org] ran out of Ohio State [University]. Most of the [online] activity was on that newsgroup. Eventually, I kind of took it over. That’s how I got into writing articles and creating the web page—that led to the Hybrid site.
HT: So the main site at first was the Honda Performance List, which you were running, and Joe had his UCLA page?
AT: Yes, that was the main site back then. We tried a little bit of social networking initially, allowing people to upload their own mini-pages. We didn’t quite get the formula right, though.
JR: I remember that I was online with my page and somebody pointed out Adrian’s page. I was told to reach out to him and that he already kind of knew about me.
AT: We decided to join forces and put together the website.
HT: What year did the Hybrid Page as we know it begin?
AT: That was right around 1996 when everything started gaining traction and, by about 1998, it was like full-on and we were getting about a million hits a month.
HT: Joe, tell us how exactly your UCLA web page and Adrian’s page merged together to create the Hybrid Page.
JR: I was graduating, so I got an account at wgn.net—a whole 10 MB of public web space [laughs]. I’d go to an event, go to Battle of the Imports, take all these pictures, and afterward I’d have to remove things because I’d be running out of space. Eventually, it transitioned from my UCLA page to the WGN page to Adrian’s.
AT: I had servers up the wazoo because I worked at Arizona State [University]. I was putting stuff everywhere. I was slapped on the wrist for using their servers, so we basically went into a closet somewhere.
HT: The school didn’t like you running your site off of their equipment?
AT: Kinda sorta. It was basically a personal website kind of thing but it got so big.
JR: And we wanted to run ads, so it was definitely gonna be a conflict of interest.
HT: Can you give us a rundown of the site’s various URLs from over the years?
JR: www.wgn.net/~joe_r to falcon.asu.edu/~hybrid to hybrid.asu.edu to hybrid.honda-perf.org to hybridforum.com to hybrids.jp.
Teo's B18C-powered Civic at the ready for the Prescott Rally, circa mid-'90s.
HT: Why did you create the Hybrid Page?
AT: We wanted to have a knowledge base of everything out there and show people how to do it the right way rather than running out and getting it done in someone’s backyard and forgetting to hook up stuff.
HT: What were your motivations back then? Was it solely for recognition or for community building?
AT: No, it did not start with that intention. We suddenly realized what we had when people were taking our articles and putting them on their own websites.
JR: There was a little bit of ego, where we wanted to be the central repository for that information. But at the same time, what I was doing was collecting it online and from the streets and shops and books and trying to get it in one place such that people weren’t having to make the same mistakes.
HT: How did you deal with other websites stealing your content?
AT: We were trying to keep the information on our site. We wanted ownership of that information. Every time we’d find someone [who stole content], we’d actually send them a threatening letter, and they’d stop doing it.
HT: The site began as a “central repository,” as you mentioned, Joe, but transitioned into a community. How’d that happen?
JR: I was still going around to some of the shops, asking questions, getting more information, trying to collect it all together, and at the same time, since we had the web page, people were helping us out by taking pictures and writing up articles on what they did. We decided to do a forum, and that’s where we really started to build a community.
HT: Joe, let’s hear more about your old Civic.
JR: I spent one of my financial aid checks on a black ’87 Civic Si and got Tokico blues and ST [Suspension Techniques] springs for it from Pro Motion. Pocket Rocket, which eventually became Pit Crew, did my exhaust, which was just a giant Magnaflow muffler. I couldn’t afford any HKS or stuff like that at the time. I crashed that car on Sunset [Boulevard]; a van pulled out in front of me and I tucked the front end underneath it. With the insurance money I got my ’89 DX hatchback, and that’s the car that I eventually put the ZC swap in. I autocrossed that car a bunch. That one was with me for quite a while, but I never did a B-series motor in it or anything great because I just didn’t have the money. I was looking to get something else after I’d had it for many years, and my friend had a ’93 Civic hatchback that he’d fully repainted. It had good interior, looked really clean, and had a B18C in it, but they just couldn’t figure out how to get it to run. It idled crazy. I picked that up off of him for pretty cheap. The big deal for me was, once I got that car running right, I took it to the [state] referee and got that sticker that says “This motor is now legal for this car in California.” That was a big deal for hybrid owners in California. Later, my B18C was burning tons of oil. That’s when we found out about the B20s. Jeff Sloan had a B20 he wasn’t using, so I borrowed his motor. Some people are still like, “You can’t borrow motors!” That’s kind of what we did back then [laughs].
AT: That’s what we did back then. I’ve done swaps for six-packs of beer [laughs]